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Mets vs. Nationals Recap: Nats' Gio swatted by Mets

The Mets won 6-1 in the first of three games in Washington, D.C.

Patrick Smith

If you were to draw up a Mets victory, it might not look exactly like this one. While the team won by five runs against a division rival, they reached that destination via an unorthodox route. Ultimately, it worked, and that’s just fine, as the Mets are hanging by a thread and need to go on a run if they are to really get into a playoff race this season.

New York got off on the right foot in the top of the first inning. With one out, Daniel Murphy tripled, and David Wright followed up with a single against Nationals start Gio Gonzalez to score him. Wright stole second, but the Mets didn’t score again in the frame. Wheeler notched three quick ground outs in the bottom of the first, however, and the Mets scored another run in the second.

Travis d’Arnaud led off the inning with a double, and after Chris Young struck out and d’Arnaud moved to third on a Ruben Tejada ground out, Wheeler came up and blooped a single to give the Mets a 2-0 lead. Wheeler’s second inning as a pitcher didn’t go quite as smoothly as it did as a hitter, though he got a little bit lucky in both roles.

Wheeler began the bottom the second with a walk. Then he issued another. He struck out Bryce Harper, but he issued another walk after that to load the bases. Then he tossed a wild pitch, which allowed Adam LaRoche to score easily from third base and cut the Mets’ lead in half.

With two men in scoring position and still just one out, Wheeler induced a ground ball from Jose Lobaton. The Mets’ infield was playing back, and Washington would have easily tied the game if the ball didn’t hit Asdrubal Cabrera in the leg just a few feet in front of Ruben Tejada. That put runners on the corners with two outs and Gio Gonzalez due up, and Wheeler got the opposing pitcher to fly out to center field to end the inning.

In the third, Wheeler gave up back-to-back singles to begin the inning but got a ground ball double play right afterwards and didn’t allow a run to score in the frame. He got through the fourth and fifth innings with ease, but he allowed a Jayson Werth double to start the bottom of the sixth. Adam LaRoche then singled to left field, where Eric Campbell—who got a rare start in left—fielded the ball and threw out Werth at home plate to keep the game tied. Wheeler got through the rest of the inning without issue, and the Mets widened their lead in the seventh.

After a Chris Young walk and a Ruben Tejada infield single, the Nationals turned to Drew Storen in favor of Gio Gonzalez, and Wheeler put down a perfect bunt to advance both runners. Storen hit Juan Lagares with a pitch, but when he got a potential inning-ending double play ball to second base from Daniel Murphy, Asdrubal Cabrera botched the play. Two runs scored on the play. One out later, Lucas Duda blooped a single to put the Mets up 5-1.

Despite the wide margin and Wheeler’s relatively heavy workload earlier in the game, Terry Collins kept the young starter in the game for the seventh. He gave up a couple of singles to start the inning, but he got another ground ball double play to leave a runner at third base with two outs as Collins turned to Josh Edgin out of the Mets’ bullpen. Denard Span hit a very shallow fly ball to center field, but Juan Lagares caught it, of course, to end the inning.

The Mets tacked on a sixth run when recently-recalled pinch hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis singled to score Travis d’Aranud. For the bottom of that inning, Collins turned to Jeurys Familia, who threw a scoreless inning. And after the Mets batted in the top of the ninth, Dana Eveland took the mound and set down all three batters he faced to finish off the win.

In total, Zack Wheeler threw six-and-two-thirds innings, struck out five, walked four, and allowed seven hits. He threw 109 pitches, 66 of which were strikes. It was not his sharpest start, but it was another in a now-long string of good starts. Jacob deGrom is deservedly getting a ton of attention lately, but Wheeler has not been far behind.

SB Nation GameThreads

* Amazin' Avenue GameThread
* Federal Baseball GameThread

Win Probability Added

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Big winners: Zack Wheeler, +28.2% WPA as pitcher, +7.3% WPA as hitter, Daniel Murphy, +18.1% WPA
Big losers: Eric Campbell, -5.9% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Daniel Murphy’s two-run single in the seventh, +12.8% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Jayson Werth’s leadoff double in the sixth, -11.3% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +31.7% WPA
Total batter WPA: +18.3% WPA
GWRBI!: Zack Wheeler